We are constantly amused and amazed by Livia’s interaction with our pack of dogs. She just can’t get enough of them. Whether it’s sitting on them, hugging them, kissing them, stealing their food or just chilling in their beds. It really is cute how much she loves them. I don’t blame them for finding all the attention a bit much sometimes, especially when she sits down on them like a WWW wrestler! Our boerboel puppy, Duma is 5 months old now. He is huge already, but such a sweetie and very gentle with Livia when he’s not bounding round the house in an excited state. She loves to visit him while he is relaxed and lying on his bed. I just love these photos of their gentle interaction. There was more than enough love going round for Coco to also get a big hug!
It’s been two weeks. Two weeks since our little beagle Hope went missing on the farm. She hasn’t been found. Since the second day she was gone I knew that something terrible had happened to her, I just didn’t know what. People said we should keep on searching and we did. But there has been nothing.
We’ve had to deal with a lot of loss at Vastrap over the past two years. First, Tumi who had an inoperable tumour in her uterus and then her daughter Paris, who died from a snake bite. Felix and Poepsie cat have also both passed. As much as I loved those animals, they were not mine from the start so I was able to manage the grief. But Hope was different. She was one of Coco’s puppies and I helped raise her from the first moments she was born. She was the smallest of the litter and always looked different to the others, with a very dark black coat and a small white triangle on her neck. She had the biggest, softest ears. She was fiercely independent and from the start ran wild on the farm, jumping off the bakkie at will to chase after things. We should have done more to train her or contain her, but she was so happy being free. I don’t know if it helps to have regrets. The reality is that farm life poses all sorts of dangers for dogs that one can’t completely sanitise. Still, the other dogs had relatively full and long lives, but Hopey was not even two yet.
I don’t have adequate words to describe how sad, empty and heartbroken I am feeling. I will miss her very much and so will Coco, her mother and partner in crime. She was so kind to Livia and never minded being sat on or smothered with love. She would often sneak off to curl up on my pillow and always came to me for special cuddles and hugs. Goodbye little one. Vastrap will never forget you. Rest in peace.
I love impromptu weekends that aren’t planned months in advance, but are last minute affairs that turn out perfectly. Such was our Valentines weekend when my mom and sister decided they were missing Livia too much and just had to visit us on the farm. With a free pass from respective family duties, they convinced friends Eben and Francois to join in for the drive. After the first round of cold G&Ts were poured on Friday evening, we watched a huge storm build up that brought some much-needed rain. It was thunderous and dramatic and my farmer love was incredibly grateful for it. The rest of the weekend was spent playing with baba, planning the next lazy meal under the stars and deep afternoon slumbers. We had glorious Valentines sundowners on the mountain. The air was fresh and clear after the rain opening up vistas for miles.
On Sunday I decided to drive back with them to Joburg to go and fetch the latest addition to our family of pets, a new male Boerboel puppy. That was my only mission so I left Livia behind with her dad. I drove back again on Monday morning with the sweetest little companion in the car. He was so good and slept all the way. Livia gave him a rapturous welcome to Vastrap with hugs and kisses all over. We’ve decided to name him Duma, which means thunder in Sesotho. Hopefully he will be our good luck charm for rain and a very good protector for Livia and me on our farm adventures. The rest of the pack are a bit put out by this new imposter, but I’m sure they’ll chill out soon. What’s not to love?!
My beagle babies, Hope and Coco have been in the wars over the past six weeks. First, Hope jumped off the back of a fast-moving bakkie and broke her leg at the knee joint. The vet operated and inserted two pins in her leg and then sent us home with strict instructions to keep her as still as possible for six weeks… not an easy task for a 9 month old beagle! Needless to say, she’s been my and Livia’s constant companion over the past six weeks doing everything we do, including a trip to Joburg. I’ve had to take her out for toilets breaks on a lead every two hours and lavish her with treats and toys to keep her busy. On one level it’s been great bonding time since she’s always been very close to her mother, Coco. But on another, it’s been terrible to see her pining to go outside especially when she can hear the other dogs getting excited to go out with Quentin on the farm. How we’re going to prevent her from jumping off the car again I don’t know, but she is almost ready to join the pack again. I’m certainly not going to miss the early morning and late-night trips outside in the mid-winter chill!
Just as I was getting excited about setting my little patient free, Coco came home last week looking very miserable with a hugely swollen shoulder and bite marks on her… I didn’t know what had happened but Quentin immediately recognised the signs of a puff-adder bite. In the middle of winter!! I had to rush her to the vet where she received anti venom, but she was so badly bitten that they kept her there for a few days. Thank goodness it wasn’t fatal and that we were home to get her to the vet quickly, but she’s still poorly and we have to give her massages a few times a day to help the toxins drain into her lymphatic system. I’m not sure how long she’ll be like this, but it’s yet another patient in the house, albeit a less high maintenance one. Hopefully she’ll make a full recovery just like little Hope seems to have done.
In an attempt to keep the two of them more contained in future, there’s a team of guys putting jackal fencing over our palisade fence today… why it’s taken so long for us to do this I don’t know, but we definitely need to do something as they can’t resist the temptation to go off and explore. It doesn’t help that our electric gate hasn’t been working properly for ages either. I’m sure they’ll find and make holes in the fence eventually, but it’s a start. There’s never a dull moment with these two, but we love them dearly and wish them many more happy days with us.
We’ve had a turbulent time with our pets recently. From Tumi our beautiful boerboel passing away in September last year (see Endings and Beginnings) to Paris, the other boerboel being bitten in the face by a puff adder while we were away over Easter. Fortunately our housekeeper Malefah came to the house to feed the dogs and realised what had happened. The snake had been lying right outside our kitchen veranda all night with the dogs going crazy barking. Because Paris is blind, she obviously couldn’t see the snake and got too close sniffing around. Luckily our farm manager Andre was home and rushed her to the vet in time for treatment.
Poepsie cat was not as lucky. When we got home last week she was looking very thin and disheveled. We thought it might be worms but when we tried to give her treatment we realised she couldn’t hold any food down. She was very old and it was clear to us that her time had come. Last night she crept outside and didn’t return. I knew it was the end. She had a good life and could spend hours snoozing in a sunny spot. She very rarely ventured far from the house except for the odd walk around the swimming pool or to accompany me around the garden. She was a real lady. A beautiful gentle soul and creature of habit, not difficult to please as long as she had a warm and cosy spot to lie. She used to keep me company in the kitchen whilst cooking and I can’t count how many times I stood on her tail because she always sat right behind my feet! She also loved to climb on my lap while I was working in the study. If I didn’t want her she would curl up amongst the papers in the wastepaper basket next to me. In winter she would sleep in front of the Aga or underneath the roaring fire in the Morsø stove. Goodbye Poepsie, you will be sorely missed especially by the Beagles who loved to eat your food. I hope it’s very nice and warm in kitty heaven. xx
We had one of those fabulous farm weekends where the laughter of playing children permeates every inch of the house from early until late. We had a house full of visitors for half-term weekend, including Ashley who we hadn’t seen since September. The weekends always fly by far too quickly, but it’s magical to see how much the kids enjoy their freedom and all the activities the farm has to offer – riding on tractors and combine harvesters, feeding cattle, stroking calves, endless games in the garden, sundowners and more! Of course the parents can have fun too, and we indulged in good food and wine while the conversation flowed seamlessly and people joined in and sneaked off for naps as they pleased. We made a special effort this weekend because it’s probably the last big group of friends we’ll have at Vastrap for a while. Quentin’s busy season on the crop farming side is about to start and I’m planning to take it easy as my expected due date early in the new year approaches. Apart from family visits, I’m hoping to wind down the year quietly.
Our little puppy, Hope was a big hit with all the kids and we exposed her to some new experiences on the farm. She was 12 weeks on Saturday so it’s time for her to toughen up and become a farm dog. She wasn’t so sure about her first ride on the back of the bakkie, but it’s only a matter of time before she’s clamouring to go for a ride, just like her mother! We’ve been waiting for Ashley to visit before doing a proper memorial for our Boerboel Tumi, who passed away unexpectedly a month ago (see Endings and beginnings). We bought a beautiful sandstone angel from Living Life and placed it under a newly planted purple Pride of India that is encircled with a heart. This morning we all got teary eyed as we remembered Tumi and all the things we miss about her. I can see the angel from my kitchen window so it will be a constant reminder of her gentle, loving spirit.
Happily, we’ve had a bit more rain and this afternoon there was a huge hail storm. The veld still needs time to recover and our dams are still low, but it’s been a great start. The garden is looking so colourful and I’m loving the luxury of walking out and picking buckets full of gorgeous flowers. All of these things are a constant reminder of how incredibly lucky and blessed we are.
Today we say goodbye to the last little puppy, Poppy Reid. She is flying back to Cape Town with her new parents Penny and Mark who have been visiting us for the past two days. All of us have become very attached to little Poppy, especially Hope and Coco who spend hours playing together in the garden. Coco is still very attached to her little ones so it must be hard for her when they don’t come home, but at least little Hope is staying with her. We’re going to have our hands full with two beagles, because they really do like chasing after scents and it’s impossible to stop them running off once they’re on a trail. In fact, Coco has been taking puppies on expeditions up the mountain whenever she gets a gap, which usually ends in some kind of rescue mission to retrieve a crying distressed puppy! They are simply not big enough or brave enough to keep up with their mother so it’s been quite stressful keeping them safe. We’ve had an incredible 10 weeks with Coco’s litter, but all good things must come to an end and it’s time for life to return to normal. I am so grateful that all four little ones have gone to amazing people who will take good care of them and keep us updated on their progress. What a rewarding and joyful experience this has been and a little insight to what’s in store when our real deal baby arrives in January! Goodbye little Poppy. Thank you for your love. Be well, be safe and be happy with your new family. We will miss you little one.
We had a sad time at Vastrap last week, saying goodbye to our first puppy, Shiloh and our beautiful 8-year old Boerboel, Tumi on the same day. Shiloh went off to his new home in the Eastern Cape and by all accounts has settled in beautifully. Tumi sadly passed onto a higher place. Somewhere I hope she is getting all the rubs and cuddles and love she demanded in her time here on earth. She was a gentle giant, the matriarch of our pack and was incredibly patient with the puppies in her last days. She had ovarian cancer, which spread aggressively and could not be treated once we realised she was sick. Her spirit lives on in her blind daughter Paris, who still seems a bit confused by what has happened (see “How Paris ‘sees’ the world“).
The puppies have thrown our whole routine off course so we will have to slowly establish a new equilibrium once we settle back to ‘normal’. The second puppy, Rosebud was collected by her new owners today. She has gone off to Johannesburg with a very chuffed little girl who is going to take good care of her and their other Beagle Josh. The last two, Spike and Poppy will stay with us for another week. Our puppy Hope, is turning into a very spirited little thing. She seems to have no fear and leads the pack in most things mischief! It is so cute seeing the world through their little eyes as they discover things for the first time, like coming face to face with chickens in the garden and the delights of sheep and cow dung… ugh! Hope is yet to integrate herself into the bigger Vastrap pack, but over time I have no doubt she will fill a little corner of the gaping space left by Tumi. A sad ending followed by a new beginning, such is the cycle of life.
This past long weekend was a treat. Having visitors to stay always presents an opportunity to enjoy things that farm life has to offer, like the space, outdoors, instant activities for the kids and of course long lazy breakfasts, lunches and dinners! The cherry on top was that Ashley was also here. She has lost both her front teeth and I just love her new toothless smile! The kids had a ball riding their bikes, skate boarding, playing tennis, riding on the back of the bakkie, feeding cows and horses, herding sheep, collecting chicken eggs, riding horses, making lemonade with a pile of lemons they picked from the tree, playing on the swings at Living Life while the adults enjoyed a lazy lunch and digging holes in the excavator with Quentin. The celebration of Heritage Day in South Africa coincides with Braai Day on 24 September, which makes some kind of braai or barbecue an absolute must. We enjoyed delicious farm lamb chops, boerewors and steak with charred grilled sweetcorn. The farm is still extremely dry, but spring is alive and well in the garden with the wisteria almost past its prime and purple orchids in full bloom. Sadly, outside the areas we water the grass is still dead and brown desperately waiting for the first summer rain.
Our troop of five Beagle puppies are a constant source of entertainment and they have become extremely playful at 7 weeks of age. Their little ears are hilariously long! The first little one, Shiloh, is leaving for his new home in a few days’ time so we are making the absolute most of their last days together. I had a big scare this morning when Shiloh went missing… until now they’ve never wandered off and have tended to stick in their pack. After looking in all his favourite hiding spots I heard a puppy barking in the mountain above our house. It sounded too far away to be true, but there was no mistaking that it was him. I ran as fast as I could up the rough path behind the house and eventually also heard Coco barking. Low and behold, he had got himself stuck on a rocky outcrop on the lower slope of the mountain! I was so relieved to see them both, but couldn’t believe that he had wandered so far! The poor little thing was quite shattered and cried all the way home, while Coco looked relieved that her baby had not been harmed. After a good sleep he was back in fine form bouncing around the garden. I’ll have to keep a much closer eye on them now that they’re becoming more adventurous so that they can all make it to their new homes safe and sound.
We just can’t get enough of these puppies! It’s a full time job taking care of this lot, but I’ve had some wonderful help over the past few days while my sister and my nieces Sibella and Sophia have been visiting. The minute Ashley arrived for her visit last week she insisted that we had to have a puppy party for our cute new babies. I didn’t really know what she had in mind, but I needn’t have worried because the planning began as soon as her cousins were here. The kids awoke with much excitement on Wednesday morning and started to blow up balloons and decorate the TV room. They even drew special cards for each puppy, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to take any photos of them. While I baked some chocolate-chip biscuits, Sibella attended to the girls’ make-up. As soon as the puppies woke from their mid-morning nap they joined in the fun. Clueless as to what was going on, the rest of us had a great time watching them explore and play. They have completely come to life over the past week and are now fully engaged in boisterous play, which often involves biting each other as hard as possible ending in shrieks of pain! Coco is keeping a wary distance, but reluctantly lies down for a feed every now and again even though she is suffering more and more abuse from their sharp little teeth! Meanwhile I am trying my best to entice them with solid food to help with the weaning process. So far so good. They are looking gorgeous and we love them all to bits. It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye when they leave for their new homes at the end of September.